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Dr Christopher Wong

Dr Christopher Wong: Finding novel ways to treat a unique type of chest pain

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Dr Christopher Wong: Finding novel ways to treat a unique type of chest pain

Since being awarded a Heart Foundation Health Professional Scholarship (now Postgraduate Scholarship) in 2018, Dr Christopher Wong has the world at his feet.

He has gone on to complete his PhD, as well as a prestigious interventional cardiology fellowship at Standford Medical Centre in the US. Now based at Stanford University, this young cardiologist is breaking new ground with his research into a unique heart condition. Thanks to the generous support of Heart Foundation donors, Dr Wong’s work is helping improve the lives of people living with ‘angina with non-obstructive coronary arteries’, or ANOCA.

Angina happens when there is a reduced supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, starving the heart muscle of oxygen and causing pain. Traditionally, we’ve thought this only happens when coronary arteries supplying blood and oxygen to the heart muscle become blocked with a fatty substance called plaque (coronary heart disease).

But not all people experiencing angina will have a blocked coronary artery. And that’s exactly what sparked Dr Wong’s initial interest in ANOCA. “I was struck by the large proportion of people with severe symptoms despite having a ‘normal’ coronary angiogram,” he explains.

Dr Wong’s research is exploring ways to better diagnose and treat people with this unique type of angina. “People with ANOCA tend to be younger and are more often women,” explains Dr Wong. “They don’t fit the stereotype of a person with heart disease.”

When investigating people with chest pain, most hospitals in Australia only look for blockages in large arteries that can be seen on a coronary angiogram. But this can miss people with ANOCA – those with ’normal-looking’ arteries that can tighten suddenly, as well as those with damage in the tiny blood vessels that are invisible to the naked eye.

People with ANOCA are often told that everything is normal but will continue to have chest pain”, explains Dr Wong. “This means people don’t have a clear diagnosis, and often need to have more invasive tests.”

Dr Christopher Wong


Once doctors have diagnosed a person with ANOCA, the next step is of course to treat it. Dr Wong’s team is about to launch a ground-breaking study exploring how different medicines can be tailored to each person depending on the underlying cause of their angina. The findings could transform heart disease treatment, by helping doctors decide which medicines are best suited to which people.

“I hope my research will change the way people think about this condition and help those affected to live healthier lives,” says Dr Wong.

Dr Christopher Wong is a proud ambassador for our 2024 Hand on Heart brand campaign.

By pushing boundaries, by exploring new treatments, and by continuing to inform, we can help save lives and improve the lives of people touched by heart disease. Thanks to the generous support of everyday Australians, we can continue to fund researchers like Dr Wong.

Help us make heart disease history by donating today.

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Last updated14 May 2024